Campaign Kick-off Remarks
As Delivered by Charlie Brown, Lt. Col. USAF Ret.
Thank you for that kind introduction, and thank you all for being here today.
Thirty Five years ago, I took an oath.
I raised my hand - and I pledged to faithfully protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
That oath has guided my life ever since that day. That oath took me to the skies above Vietnam and Cambodia, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama and Iraq.
That oath echoed in my heart when I heard my own son take it - and again when Jan and I said goodbye to our son Jeff, as he left to serve in Iraq four times in the last three and a half years.
And it is that same oath that brings me back here today - to announce my candidacy for the United States Congress.
"To protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America."
That was - and is - the oath of every man and woman who has ever served in the armed forces of our nation.
When you raise your hand - you don't swear to defend a political party. You don't promise to protect a special interest or a campaign contributor. You certainly don't pledge to put yourself before your country.
You promise to stand up and fight for what's right and good about this nation. You promise to protect our freedoms. You promise to put your own life on the line if necessary to stop any nation or any individual who means this country harm.
Well - I don't doubt for one second the patriotism of members of our government. I really don't.
But I'll tell you this - I do question their priorities.
In the military - there is a strict hierarchy of values. Country comes first.
Not self. Not even family. Certainly not partisanship or politics. Certainly not insignificant things like re-election, or the self interest of contributors, or the profits of defense contractors.
Country comes first.
And for this career officer, there's only one way to judge allegiance to those values---results.
If you look at what's happening in Washington right now, you don't see results. Instead, you see politicians putting partisanship ahead of solving America's problems.
I've been in the National Security business for more than thirty years. And I know that defending America means doing what it takes to keep us safe - not just saying what it takes to win an election.
It means fighting the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11-not taking sides in someone else's civil war.
It means securing our broken borders, not just blaming our political opponents for the problem during the next campaign.
It means putting our fiscal house in order, balancing budgets, and fully committing this nation to a policy of energy independence.
It means ending Congressional tolerance of waste, corruption even, dare I say it, treason in a system of military spending that sends our troops to fight without the best possible equipment.
It means fixing the systemic problems plaguing our veterans health and aftercare system, not just standing in front of a group of soldiers during an election year photo op.
It means listening to the world's top scientists on global warming-not campaign contributors who profit from the status quo.
And it means demanding action-not just words from our elected leaders.
I'm running for Congress to demand action.
And action needs to start with the war in Iraq.
As a retired Air Force officer who once coordinated intelligence flights over Iraq - I knew this war was a strategic mistake. The responsibility lies not with our heroic troops on the ground, but with the miscalculations of naïve politicians in Washington.
We've toppled a terrible dictator, but the power vacuum has unleashed centuries old sectarian rivalries in the form of a violent civil war. Now, much as we'd like to, we can't go back in time. We also can't defeat global terrorism by transforming the world's finest military force into the Baghdad police force.
Our troops have done their job. The problem in Iraq is a lack of political progress, made possible by the lack of political will in Washington to change course.
The solution lies in ending our policy of blank check, open ended military and economic support for a dysfunctional Iraqi government. Let me be clear. Any future U.S. aid that lacks enforceable benchmarks for the Iraqi government rewards failure, and insults the sacrifices made by our troops, their families and the Iraqi people.
We need to re-deploy our troops out of Iraq's civil war so we can refocus on the real front lines against terrorism-fighting the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, strengthening our strategic alliances, improving intelligence gathering, expanding special operations capabilities, and giving our troops more time here at home- so they can be rested, trained, properly equipped and ready for quick deployment against terrorist concentrations or any other threats to America.
As we work to win the war on terror - we must also confront a different threat, lying right in front of us, which has been neglected by Washington politicians for more than two decades.
That is the threat of a terrorist coming across America's undefended borders because the politicians have turned our border policy into a game of political football.
I care more about defending America than scoring political points. That's why I'll fight for real immigration reform as your next Congressman. I know this is controversial. Everybody says - don't talk about this. But I'm sick and tired of the politicians hiding in their foxholes instead of standing up and fighting for what's right and necessary.
And what's right and necessary is reform of this broken system that tolerates illegal immigration.
Reform starts with secure borders. We will never solve our immigration problem, or deal constructively with the 12 million illegal immigrants who are already here, until we first stop the bleeding at our borders.
Next, we must prosecute companies that hire illegal immigrants, and give local police the resources they need to deport illegal immigrants who commit crimes.
We need to demand that our government stop turning a blind eye while millions of people and thousands of corporations break the law. We need a legal way for people to work that requires that they obey the law and, in turn, are protected by our laws. We need a system that rewards people for learning English and playing by the rules and sends people who have broken the rules to the back of the line.
The same politicians who have failed to deliver any results on this issue will undoubtedly attack me for taking a stand. Well, if you want silence on the tough issues - you know who to vote for. If you want somebody who isn't afraid to talk honestly about even the toughest challenges - I hope I can earn your support.
Defending America also means confronting additional threats here at home-like out of control spending and waste, and our continued dependence on foreign oil.
The spending spree in Washington has to stop. And let's be honest about it - their deficit spending is nothing more than the single largest tax increase in American history. We need to stop the politicians before they spend us into ruin and leave our kids with the tax bill. That starts with demanding that every dollar spent is spent wisely.
While Members of Congress of both parties and our president mortgage our future - they don't want to be honest about who is holding that mortgage. Countries like China, Venezuela, Libya, and Iran, that's who.
The solution is a fiscal policy that puts America first. That means balancing budgets, cutting spending, making government more effective and efficient, and ensuring our tax dollars are managed by competent professionals-not unqualified political cronies.
It means eliminating special earmarks for special interests, and instead, focusing our tax dollars on national priorities---like roads, bridges, education and healthcare.
It means standing up to an unconscionable pattern of waste and fraud in military contracting, which endangers the lives of our troops and even killed several of my friends in Vietnam. I've seen the price our troops and our nation are paying for this waste up close- and it is simply too high. In Congress, I will treat war profiteering and contractor fraud for what it is-treason.
And we can't say we are truly defending this nation so long as we are dependent on foreign oil. Gas cost $1.46 when President Bush took office. As we saw on 9/11, and again after Hurricane Katrina, instability in the world oil market is a very real threat to America's economy, as well as our security. That's why the nation's largest energy consumer, the military, is moving to alternative fuels. And it's why as your representative, I am committed to making America energy independent.
Finally, I took an oath to protect and defend our nation and our Constitution.
To me that means more than simply protecting our shores from attack. It means protecting our basic rights, like freedom of thought, speech and individuality. That's why I'll fight in Congress to keep our government out of our personal business. I don't want the government to tell me what to do with my guns and I don't want the government to tell my daughter or any woman that she can't make decisions about her own body.
The politicians should keep busy defending our freedoms - not trying to undermine them right here at home.
In the military, and particularly in combat, you learn pretty quickly that it doesn't matter what you say - it's what you do that matters.
Nowhere has the contradiction between what politicians say and do been greater than in the area of caring for America's 75 million plus veterans, families, and surviving dependents. And for those of you who don't know, the Walter Reed Scandal was just the very tip of the iceberg in a systemic pattern of neglect that has been going on for decades.
That's why in this campaign we will not wait until January of 2009 to make a difference. We're going to lead by example, by giving 5% of every dollar we raise between now and election day to charities that serve veterans and families in need-here in the 4th District, and across the country.
But we're not stopping there. I'm calling on every candidate in any party, running for every level of elected office, to do much more than just say they "support our troops," by joining us in this effort to truly "leave no veteran behind."
If we are going to change politics in America, we must start by making our campaigns about something much bigger than politics. We have to make it about taking action, achieving big goals, and sending leaders who are willing to take action in Washington.
I took an oath. And if you give me your votes - and I am elected to serve you in Congress - I will take a very similar oath again - to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
I will take an oath to serve you - not a political party - not a campaign donor - not whatever whim happens to be politically popular - but you.
I guess it is old fashioned. But I'm not afraid to say I love this country. I love the freedom it stands for. That's why I wasn't afraid to defend our country in battle.
I know the difference between patriotism and partisanship. The difference is results. The difference is accountability. The difference is having the courage to make the tough choices. The difference is all of us coming together to forge solutions.
I know that if we put patriotism before politics - we will prevail in the very real battles ahead. There's no stopping America - when America is true to itself.
Thank you all for coming, and thank you for your support. Now let's take our country back.